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In the prewriting stage of a researched essay, you will do a lot of reading and information gathering. In this stage of the process, you should keep your information organized carefully so that you can find it when it comes time to write your essay.

Understand the assignment

In your essay, you will describe either the causes/effects of a topic. The topic may be a problem (e.g., poverty), but may also be a good thing (e.g., economic stability). You are not trying to solve a problem in your essay. In shorter essays, you may be asked to only consider causes or only consider effects. In longer essays, it may be more appropriate to consider both. Always be sure to understand what your teacher expects for the scope of your essay. 


Remember that after you do enough preliminary research to brainstorm and choose your focus, you should do more detailed research about your topic so that you can make your outline. 


Simple Google searches with either “causes of” or “effects of” might be a good place to start if you aren’t sure what to write about. You may also participate in a discussion with a friend or classmate to try to generate possible topics. Consider discussing trying to answer some of questions like the following: 

Generating Topics

  • What is a natural phenomenon that impacts nature or humans? (e.g., tsunamis) 
  • What is a phenomenon that impacts people socially? (e.g., bullying) 
  • What is a phenomenon that impacts relationships? (e.g., miscommunication) 
  • What is a phenomenon in business that makes companies successful? (e.g., marketing) 

You could also start by thinking about positive benefits that people look for or problems we face. 

Choose a focus

Then examine the causes/effects of that topic. Many students get confused writing this type of essay because they choose a topic and develop body paragraphs about the causes as well as the causes of the causes. Put your topic in the center and build around it.


Start with your topic sentences and thesis. Add questions or quotes to help you develop each of your ideas. 

1 Exercise: Complete an outline

Use the topic sentences to create the thesis for this outline. 

  • TH: 
  • TS: Good interior design comes from knowing principles of unity and contrast. 
  • TS: Respecting personal taste is another way to achieve a good design. 
  • TS: A good design can help people feel more relaxed. 
  • TS: A good design can also facilitate the functionality of a room. 


Your introduction should describe in general terms the topic you will write about in your essay. At the end of your introduction paragraph, you should write your thesis. The thesis should clearly state a cause or effect relationship. 

Here are some phrases that are useful for writing a cause/effect thesis: 

2 Exercise: Revise thesis statements

Revise the theses to be more effective for a cause/effect essay. 

  1. Here are the three negative effects of overfishing. 
  2. It’s required a global awareness to stop this uncontrollable problem which affects not only us, but also, those who come. 
  3. It affects the person in different ways and can affect every part of the body because the cancer can expand all over affecting all your organs. 
  4. Therefore, the mental and physical effects, using a smartphone before bed worsens sleep quality, some of the most common effect include not concentrate and poor memory on study or work, obesity risk and increased risk of having an accident. 
  5. All forms of addiction are dangerous and difficult to get rid of but the most common problem in a society is the problem with alcohol abuse. 
  6. The most common eating disorders are anorexia and bulimia nervosa and the most important factors that cause it are a psychological, environmental, and biologic-genetical issues. 
  7. The impact of social media in our lives can be in positive and negative ways.

3 Exercise: Complete an outline

Use the topic sentences to create the thesis for this outline. 


  • TS: Depression can be caused by genetics. 
  • TS: Another cause of depression is chemicals in the brain. 
  • TS: A final cause of depression is due to circumstance. 


Your body paragraphs should explain how or why your thesis sentence is true. As you plan each of your body paragraphs, remember that using sources will make your writing more credible and interesting. Use sources properly so that you do not plagiarize.


Your conclusion paragraph should start by restating your thesis. Then, you should speak about the person/event in more general terms and apply their situation to the world more generally. End with a concluding statement.

4 Exercise: Give feedback about an outline

Read the basic outline below. What would you do to help a classmate or friend that wrote an outline like this? 

  • TH: The causes more relevant about Pollution around the world are air, water, and 
  • ground pollution. 
  • TS: Air pollution is one the causes of pollution, and it can cause many diseases. 
  • TS: Water pollution is the second cause of pollution, and it can cause harm to 
  • marine animals. 
  • TS: Finally, ground pollution is the third cause of pollution, and it is the most common for the people. 
  • TS: Air, water, and ground pollution are the causes more common in the world 
  • about pollution. 

As you outline your body paragraphs and choose research, make sure the quotes you use support your topic sentence.

Example: Outline with sources for a body paragraph

  • TH: Stress affects our body’s muscular, cardiovascular, and chemical systems. 
    • TS: One of the most obvious effects of stress is muscle tension. 
      • “When the body is stressed, muscles tense up. Muscle tension is almost a reflex reaction to stress — the body’s way of guarding against injury and pain” (APA, n.d., “Musculoskeletal,” para. 1). 

5 Exercise: Choose sources that support a topic sentence

Choose source material from the quotes below that would support the following topic sentence. (Don’t choose an entire quote if the whole quote doesn’t support the TS.) 

TS: Volcanic eruptions can occur due to an incerase in the amount of magma in the chamber. 

  • “A volcano is essentially an opening or a vent through which this magma and the dissolved gases it contains are discharged” (Killinc, 1999, para. 2). 
  • “If the density of the magma between the zone of its generation and the surface is less than that of the surrounding and overlying rocks, the magma reaches the surface and erupts” (Killinc, 1999, para. 3). 
  • “As...magma moves toward the surface, the solubility of the water in the magma decreases, and so the excess water separates from the magma in the form of bubbles. As the magma moves closer to the surface, more and more water exsolves from the magma, thereby increasing the gas/magma ratio in the conduit. When the volume of bubbles reaches about 75 percent, the magma disintegrates to pyroclasts (partially molten and solid fragments) and erupts explosively” (Killinc, 1999, para. 5). 
  • “These processes are obviously difficult to observe. The third process that causes volcanic eruptions is an injection of new magma into a chamber that is already filled with magma of similar or different composition. This injection forces some of the magma in the chamber to move up in the conduit and erupt at the surface (Killinc, 1999, para. 6). 
  • “Although volcanologists are well aware of these three processes, they cannot yet predict a volcanic eruption. But they have made significant advances in forecasting volcanic eruptions. Forecasting involves probable character and time of an eruption in a monitored volcano” (Killinc, 1999, para. 7).